15 May, 2018
Forbes Solicitors successfully defends series of vexatious claims and allegations brought by a tenant over a 3 year period to enable enforcement of Possession Order made in 2015.
Forbes Solicitors has successfully assisted a Social Landlord to defend the most recent in a long series of serious and vexatious applications made by a tenant to try and prevent their eviction.
Where a Possession Order has been made in a landlord's favour, if the tenant does not vacate the property by the date ordered, landlords must obtain a warrant and ask the court bailiff to evict them.
Tenants may ask the Court to set aside a Possession Order if certain tests are satisfied. Any application must be made promptly and have a reasonable prospect of success and the tenant must be able to show they had a good reason for not attending the hearing. Warrants can also be set aside where it can be shown they were obtained by fraud or there has been an abuse of process or oppression in its execution. The latter circumstances are very rarely made out. There is no limit on how many applications a tenant may bring, unless the Court orders that its permission must be sought.
In this case, the landlord commenced possession proceedings over 3 years ago due to the tenant's failure to pay rent. A Suspended Possession Order was awarded in October 2015 but wasn't complied with and as such the landlord requested a warrant. Over the years that followed the tenant frustrated the landlord's attempts to evict by making spurious and vexatious applications to suspend. The court gave the tenant considerable opportunities to provide coherent evidence in support of her applications before eventually dismissing or striking them out, but the tenant, while still not paying sufficient rent or anything towards the arrears, continued to bring applications.
In October 2017 the landlord sought our assistance to respond to the tenant's most recent application to "set aside the warrant of eviction." The Court treated the application as a two-part request to either set aside the original Possession Order or set aside the most recent warrant.
The tenant alleged, amongst other things, that she was unaware of the initial possession hearing, that she did not owe any rent or arrears, that there had been improper and fraudulent conduct on the part of the landlord and its Housing Officers, who were also conspiring with other public bodies to deliberately mislead her and prevent her from obtaining work. The tenant claimed that her landlord had caused significant deterioration in her mental health and that there was disrepair at the property.
Associate Solicitor, Sarah Rogers dealt with the trial of the two pronged application which, although listed for 3 hours, took all day. Unsurprisingly judgment was reserved.
Ahead of the judgment hearing, the tenant made a vexatious injunction application against the landlord alleging further improper conduct and breaches under the Equality Act and of her human rights. Forbes made an immediate application to strike this out.
At the judgment hearing, dealt with by Solicitor, Amy Stirton the Judge made findings of fact in response to each allegation raised by the tenant and dismissed the tenant's application to set aside the Possession Order and warrant in its entirety. An order debarring the tenant from lodging any future applications relating to the findings of fact was also made. The Judge also struck out the tenant's injunction application on the basis that it did not disclose reasonable grounds for bringing a claim and made an order that the tenant pay the landlord's costs of the case, which were significant.
The case constituted a significant victory for the social landlord in a case that had been ongoing for a considerable period of time, utilising valuable time and resources, which are often already limited.
The case demonstrates that vexatious complainants and litigants will be dealt with robustly on behalf of social landlords and that there will potentially be serious cost implications for those tenants who choose to pursue vexatious complaints in the courtroom.
If you have any questions relating to this article or applications to set aside/suspend warrants of possession generally, please contact Sarah Rogers or Amy Stirton by email at Sarah Rogers or Amy Stirton or by telephone on 01772 220161.